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All Together Now: Tomorrow’s Warriors

All Together Now: We take a look at what how Tomorrow's Warriors are vital in driving UK music's thriving jazz scene.

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UK Music’s series All Together Now takes a look at the projects and organisations that are helping to open access to the music industry for everyone. This time we take a look at what how Tomorrow’s Warriors are vital in driving UK music’s thriving jazz scene. Co-founder Janine Irons OBE discusses what the organisation achieves and how cuts to music education are threatening this. 

“Tomorrow’s Warriors (TW) is a talent development agency, creative producer, learning and training provider, charity and consultancy specialising in jazz, founded by Queen’s Medal for Music recipient Dr Gary Crosby OBE and me in 1991.

Our year-round weekly Young Artist Development Programme aimed at talent aged 11-25 is hosted at London’s Southbank Centre and is 100% free to access, comprising of music training, artist development and professional performances.

Since inception, TW has reached over 10,000 young people through its programmes, providing each musician with between 1,000-5,000 hours of free jazz training and development.

The organisation primarily champions and supports young people from the African diaspora, girls and those whose financial or other challenging circumstances tend to lock them out of opportunities to pursue a career in the music industry.

TW’s programme is unique in its approach to nurturing nascent talent and providing young musicians with a creative community of like-minded artists where they can discover their magic and realise creative ambitions – in essence, it’s a place and a space to thrive.

Tomorrow’s Warriors Frontline at We Our Here Festival 2023. Credit Graeme Miall.

Music Education Cuts

The UK education sector has faced savage funding cuts that have reduced, in some cases eliminated, music programmes in schools across the country. Many young talents – and especially those from less affluent and minoritized backgrounds – are having their musical ambitions crushed, as opportunities to learn to play instruments become a privilege for the few.

These cuts will have a lasting, detrimental impact on the UK’s cultural output for generations to come and our music industry will be all the poorer for it. Fast forward to Glastonbury or London Jazz Festival in 2033 and beyond. Who will be on stage in future if those facing barriers don’t get the chance to learn an instrument today? How diverse will the programming be, when so many musical voices in our richly diverse society won’t have the chance to develop and be heard?

Talent Is Everywhere, Opportunity Is Not

Research from the Musicians’ Union tells us that ‘children from families with an income of under £28k are half as likely to learn an instrument compared to those from families with an income of more than £48k.’ (Musicians’ Union The State of Play – A Review of Music Education in England 2019). This growing disparity threatens to stifle the creativity and potential of countless talented young musicians who simply cannot afford to pursue their passion.

Of course, household income is not the only barrier to progression in music for young people. Systemic inequality faced by Black and Brown talent remains prevalent in the industry and educational institutions. The Arts Council’s Creating A More Inclusive Classical Music report in 2021 showed UK music conservatoire students were less ethnically diverse than the overall music student population, and amongst England’s orchestral workforce in England only between 3-6% were Black, Asian or from other ethnically diverse groups. The recent Black Lives in Music Report: Being Black In The UK Music Industry (2021) shows very little change across the board.

These statistics are depressing, but we have seen pockets of progress.  When there is an intentional, equitable and inclusive approach to learning that creates community and a sense of belonging, things can change.

We all must be relentless in striving for more inclusive access to music education and opportunity. Tomorrow’s Warriors will continue to invest in, and nurture, our young, diverse artists, but we need help from the industry to keep new talent flowing through the pipeline.

Tomorrow’s Warriors Junior Band at We Out Here 2023. Credit Pat Pascal.

UK Jazz Scene

The past 10 years or so have been truly remarkable for UK jazz. The media have proclaimed a UK ‘jazz explosion’, with increasing numbers of young people turning to jazz in a big way. Tomorrow’s Warriors has been at the centre of this change, developing new artists and building on the success of our amazing alumni, including Shabaka Hutchings, Nubya Garcia, Moses Boyd and many more. Incredibly, when Ezra Collective became the first jazz act to win the Mercury Prize this year, they were the seventh Mercury nominees that emerged from the Tomorrow’s Warriors programme in the last decade.

Join The Movement

For many young musicians, especially those from diverse and low income backgrounds, the dream of pursuing a career in music remains out of reach. This inequality stifles the rich tapestry of voices and perspectives that could shape the future of jazz music in the UK.

Music education is a right not a privilege and programmes like ours need consistent support. The UK Jazz ecosystem and talent pipeline relies on Tomorrow’s Warriors to keep feeding it from the grassroots upwards, but we can’t continue to deliver our programmes free of charge without the support of donations.

We are currently running the Tomorrow’s Warriors’ #IAMWARRIOR 2023 Appeal that will enable us to raise the £100k needed to stay true to our purpose of supporting the next jazz generation and sustaining a fresh, diverse and exciting UK Jazz scene.

Discover more about us at TOMORROW’S WARRIORS – JOIN THE MOVEMENT (tomorrowswarriors.org)

Be the change you want to see and join the #IAMWARRIOR movement.

Find out more about UK Music’s diversity work here, and our work on education here.

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